LOST GIRLS – Written by John Pollono; Direction and Stage Design by Melanie Garber; Lighting Designer: Michael Clark Wonson; Sound Designer: Audrey Seraphin; Costume Coordinator: Mikey DiLoreto. Presented by Take Your Pick Productions at Deane Hall in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston through January 21.
There’s a Nor’easter preparing to slam New England, but in the city of Manchester, New Hampshire, there’s an everyday storm of bitterness that has raged for decades that’s about to come to a head in John Pollono’s engaging comic drama, Lost Girls. Take Your Pick Productions is giving this terrific slice-of-lifer it’s New England premiere with a three-dimensional staging that is alternately hilarious and painful.
Maggie is a retail clerk who lives with her 50ish mother Linda and 16 year-old daughter Erica. The women have all been raised by mothers who gave birth to them as teens, so the deck has been stacked against them from the get-go. Maggie is striving to provide a better life for her daughter, having managed to buy the condo they live in, but is struggling to keep up with the mortgage and is just scraping by. Mom sleeps in, appears to have no job, and may have a fondness for the drink, a characteristic that seems to be woven into the tapestry of the extended family dynamic.
When the play opens, Maggie has just had her car stolen, and is trying frantically to get a ride to work while simultaneously trying to report the theft to police – all while she and her Mom snipe at each other like feral cats. Maggie’s ex-husband Lou, a New Hampshire State cop whom she kicked out because of his drinking five years ago, learns of her dilemma and arrives to help out.
Now sober, Lou also brings along his new young wife Penny, who despite being dealt a similarly lousy hand in life as Linda and Maggie, benefitted from having a mother that fought her way out of poverty to give her a stable upbringing. Penny combines a social worker mentality with a church upbringing, something completely at odds with the slash-and-burn coping skills of Maggie and Linda, who do their best to marginalize her. When the group finds out that the car was actually taken by Erica (who unbeknownst to them is being driven by a straight arrow student/athlete to meet her new boyfriend in Florida), the gloves come off between Linda and Maggie and Lou, and the old wounds are ripped open.
Pollono has a great ear for dialogue, and the harsh exchanges between the characters are enlivened with the kind of blistering colloquial wit that you hear in blue collar bars and kitchen tables from New Hampshire to Charlestown to Cape Cod. You never feel as if you’re watching a play but instead it’s like sitting in the very uncomfortable living room of your screwed up relatives during the holidays after a few cocktails. Much of that is due to the skilled direction of Melanie Garber (who also designed the spare but effective set) who elicits uniformly solid performances from this talented cast.
It’s a treat to see Christine Power playing a lower status character like Linda, and she gives her “tough broad” character real depth, spewing out her misguided principles and philosophy. Audrey Lynn Sylvia is every bit her match as Maggie, and the sparring between the two provide the best dramatic moments in the play, along with a moving exchange between Maggie and Lou (a thoroughly convincing Terrence Haddad). Lauren Foster gives perhaps her best performance to date, never letting her character drift into caricature, while Zach Winston and Lesley Anne Moreau shine as the damaged teens.
This is the second effort by the fledgling company, Take Your Pick Productions, which rose from the ashes of Happy Medium Theatre. Last year’s production of Little Dog Laughed was one of my favorite shows by a fringe company last year, and Lost Girls is every bit it’s equal. It is being given an all too short run, closing this weekend, so do yourselves a favor and go out and see this remarkable (and very funny) work. For more information about the show dates/times and to purchase tickets, please visit bostontheatrescene.com